Art Immitates Law

In Yann Martel’s novel of magical realism The Life of Pi, the protagonist finds himself lost at sea in a raft. His only companion, a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

“Who is Richard Parker?” you ask.

In 1884, a ship sank off the Cape of Good Hope leaving three men and a boy trapped in a life raft. By the end of the two weeks things were looking desperate. The group had no food, save a sea turtle they caught and ate, and they were in imminent peril of death. One thing led to another and the boy was killed by two of the men and eaten by all three of the men. Four days later, they were rescued by a German merchant ship. The men were returned to Britain where they put forth the famous necessity defense, which failed, and sentenced to death. However, the Queen commuted their death sentence and everyone lived happily ever after.

The name of the boy cannibalized by the men — Richard Parker.

Regina v. Dudley and Stephens, 14 Q.B.D 273 (1884).

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